Armenian plane allowed to take off

2012-10-15 18:03

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Ankara - Turkey gave the green light on Monday for the departure of an Armenian plane to Syria's battered second city of Aleppo after ordering it to land for a routine security check, officials said.

Officials said no suspect cargo turned up during the stop in eastern Erzurum city, unlike last week when Turkey forced a Damascus bound Syrian civlian flight from Moscow to land in Ankara, sparking tension with Russia and Syria.

"The plane's cargo was loaded back. Its doors were closed... The plane will take off in about an hour," Ozgur Arslan, deputy governor of Erzurum province in eastern Turkey, told Anatolia news agency.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc earlier said the plane was allowed to resume its journey after the inspection.

"We know a plane from Armenia was forced to land in [eastern] Erzurum city... but it was allowed to resume its journey," the state news agency quoted Arinc as saying.

Arinc said that the cargo on the plane matched the manifest handed in by the crew prior to the flight but the security check showed "how well Turkey performed its duty".

The Air Armenia cargo plane was required to stop over in Turkey for routine security checks on its cargo in line with regulations concerning non-scheduled flights, a foreign ministry official said earlier.

Armenia confirmed that the landing of the plane, which both countries said was carrying humanitarian aid, was pre-arranged.

The incident came just days after Turkey forced a Syrian plane flying in from Russia to land at Ankara airport because of what it called suspect cargo, triggering a row with Moscow and Damascus.

Airspace closed

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the cargo contained military equipment for the Syrian defence ministry, but Russia said it was dual-purpose radar equipment which was not banned by international conventions.

Turkey and Syria closed their airspaces to each other's civilian flights at the weekend.

The Armenian plane was carrying aid as part of a campaign called "Help a Brother", one of its organisers said.

"The humanitarian cargo included foodstuffs like buckwheat, rice, sugar, pasta and so on," Vahan Hovannisian, a lawmaker from the nationalist Armenian Dashnaktsutiun party, told AFP.

There is a small Armenian community in Syria - between 60 000 and 100 000 people, according to estimates - most of whom live in Aleppo.

Armenia also has close ties with Syria's major ally Russia while its relations with Turkey have long been strained.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and their border has been closed for more than a decade.

Ankara has taken an increasingly strident line towards the regime in Damascus since a shell fired from the Syrian side of the border killed five Turkish civilians on 3 October.

Read more on:    turkey  |  armenia  |  syria  |  syria conflict
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